By Valeria Bula
In the past few years, advancements have been made for women in fields such as business, space, and other sciences. The same does not apply for women in the military who seem to be amongst the furthest from obtaining equity in their career.
Recently, photos of nude women, including those of United States service members, were discovered to be circulating the web. These leaks, emerging from a Facebook page under a group by the name Marines United, further imposed the stigma of harassment and sexualization of women in the workplace.
In a report conducted by the Daily Beast, it was discovered that the pictures themselves were sold on illegal markets in the dark web. The Daily Beast also noted that, although the original Marines United group consisted of current or veteran servicemen, recent groups committing the same acts are not connected to the U.S. Military at all.
At the illicit business’ peak in February, nearly 30,000 active-duty marines and corpsman, as well as veterans and British Royal Marines, belonged to the group. All were sharing thousands of photos of women both nude and clothed, without their consent.
An estimated 500 members of the group are currently under criminal investigation for sharing images or sending threatening messages, including rape and death threats towards the women.
Despite the investigation, the photos have already spread on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram.
In light of this, hundreds of female marines and veterans have launched a Facebook account, Actionable Change. Their efforts are directed towards combating misogyny and harassment in the Corps, raising the percentage of women in the Marines from seven percent to 20, promoting gender integration in the military, addressing existing problems with training, and first-hand testimony from female Marines, the Washington Post reported.
The group of over 700 members wrote an open letter calling out misogyny in the Corps. They gained more than 100 co-signers, some ranking as high as colonel.
“In a culture that prizes masculinity, it is easy to mistake barbarism for strength. Brutality for power. Savagery for ferocity,” the group wrote in the letter shared with the service. “Yet we respectfully disagree with the notion that to fight and win our nation’s battles, we must preserve an institution where men are permitted or even expected to behave like animals, and women trespass at their peril.”
Another women advocacy group in the Marines, Not in My Marine Corps, wrote a letter to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg claiming the site has not done enough to remove the private and public entities that released the nude photos without the women’s consent.
“[This] exposed the kind of pervasive misogynistic behavior that female military members have endured for decades,” wrote Sandberg to Facebook.
The Facebook scandal occurred simultaneously with sexual harassment scandals in the Pentagon, once again exposing misogyny within the Defense Department.
Thus far, President Trump and his inner circle have remained quiet on the issue. The White House too has declined to address the issue despite controversy.
However, Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, has served as a liaison for military women, saying that highlighting military women and their families is one of her main platforms.
The degradation of women within the military has not only shown to be a women’s right issue, but a national security concern. Many perceive the scandal to be one that undermines and discredits the Corps as the fighting force for the world’s leading democracy, creating a perception of a defense system that resembles a fraternity, not an extension of politics, diplomacy and protection.